4-494 Memorandum for General Embrick, September 1, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 1, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Embrick

September 1, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

I have been studying your Joint Strategic Survey Committee report (JCS 924/2) regarding the policy to be followed towards the final defeat of Japan.1 There are certain phases of the matter pertaining to the views of your Committee regarding which I am not at all clear and I wish you would give me your views.

What consideration are you giving to the entry of Russia into the war?2

To what extent do you weigh the comparative losses resulting from a number of minor operations to gain air bases within the perimeter defined on your map, against those to be anticipated from an unexpectedly early, in other words, a surprise attack on the Japanese mainland before a larger garrison has concentrated there?3

At the present time, for example, there is a comparatively small force in Japan proper but it is to be expected that this will gradually increase as we close in for the kill. It seems to me that the attrition of men and resources resulting from a prolonged campaign involving a series of secondary operations prior to the final assault on Japan, may equal or exceed the cost of an early invasion of the Japanese homeland. Do you gentlemen think there will be less losses resulting from the gradual approach and a final assault after a heavy air beating, or by striking at a much earlier date by way of surprise before the enemy has prepared himself for the final struggle in the homeland? In this connection, have you considered the effect of a maximum carrier air strike or strikes against the Japanese homeland? By this, I mean an operation extending over ten days or two weeks.

Except on the mainland of Asia, there are few land masses affording reasonable air facilities within effective range of Japan. Formosa is the closest to Japan of these large land masses and Luzon comes next. The map in your paper shows that, for the purpose of attacking Japan, neither of these is a suitable base for other than very long range aircraft. Furthermore, the information I have is that it will be a considerable time after we have seized these areas before we will be able to bring against Japan the bombing effort they are capable of supporting.

The Japanese are concentrating strength in Formosa. Extending your illustration taken from the Saipan operation to Formosa, we may, based on estimated Japanese strength on February 15, 1945, expect to suffer approximately 90,000 casualties in taking that island. This approximates our total U.S. ground force casualties in France during the first two and a half months of the present campaign.4 Consider this loss in Formosa in comparison to the prospects for an operation against the southern half of Kyushu, where at the present time only the equivalent of one Japanese division is stationed, if made following one or two fleet air strikes against the Japanese mainland.

I am not going into the question of the security of our lines of communication or the logistical complications but merely discussing this matter from the viewpoint of casualties to be anticipated and Japanese air power to facilitate the fighting of their ground troops.

Please either see me personally to talk this over or let me have an informal statement.5

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. J.C.S. 924/2 was titled “Operations Against Japan Subsequent to Formosa.” At their September 1 meeting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had reviewed the Pacific strategic situation and had agreed that it was necessary to issue a directive concerning future Pacific operations. But they agreed to postpone a definite decision, as a cessation of hostilities in Europe, which seemed likely to occur in the late autumn, would permit a reevaluation of the available resources. (Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, September 1, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].) The service chiefs had already agreed that MacArthur’s forces would assault Leyte in the geographical heart of the Philippines in December 1944, but subsequent operations were still being debated. General MacArthur was determined to liberate Luzon; Admiral King supported a Formosa-first strategy. At this time, Marshall (and most army members of J.C.S. subordinate committees) leaned toward the Formosa-first strategy, and, like King, he had expressed the opinion that Japan itself, rather than Luzon, should be considered the substitute should Formosa prove impossible. (The Luzon versus Formosa debate is summarized in Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1963], pp. 1-9.)

2. The army’s representative on the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, Lieutenant General Stanley D. Embick, replied that he regarded this as of “cardinal importance.” Soviet national interests would ultimately cause its entry into the war against Japan, but not immediately after Germany’s defeat. The Japanese had about 1,200,000 men in Manchuria, Korea, and North China. If the United States invaded Japan prior to a Soviet declaration of war, “a considerable part” of the 800,000-man ground component of the Kwantung army would be transferred to the home islands and concentrated against the beachhead. (Embick Memorandum for General Marshall, September 2, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

3. Should the United States invade prior to Soviet entry and before Japanese strength had been reduced through blockade and air attacks, Embick stated, “we will incur far more casualties than if we take a relatively few intermediate objectives” such as southern Formosa and Okinawa, “which should be taken at relatively small cost.” The Joint Strategic Survey Committee had submitted their paper because they had “gained the impression that there is a growing inclination to regard the invasion of Japan as an objective of greater immediateness than is implied in the approved over-all concept expressed in J.C.S. 924.” (Ibid.)

4. Using the ratio of United States to Japanese casualties in the Saipan operation (16,471 versus 27,000 and 3,051 killed versus 25,111) and the estimated Japanese garrison on Formosa and Amoy as of February 15, 1945 (145,000), the Operations Division concluded that the United States could expect to suffer 88,600 casualties, including about 16,000 killed, in the conquest of Formosa. Total United States ground forces casualties in the European Theater of Operations between January 1942 and August 21, 1944, were 98,138, of whom 17,133 were killed. (George A. Lincoln Memorandum for General Handy, August 31, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

5. See Marshall Memorandum for General Embick, October 3, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-536 [4: 616-17].

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 567-569.

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